Category Archives: Knowledge

Law Profs Offer Students a Dozen Guide Books

Law school is a transformative experience; a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to acquire hugely useful knowledge and skills. It also isn’t easy. To help students navigate the law curriculum for the best effect, and graduates enter fruitful careers, law professors gathered to write a dozen guide books.

books

Law professors are scholars. Yet they can also devote their writings to helping students and graduates where most needed.

For example, the first book Going to Law School: Preparing for a Transformative Experience helps students confirm their interest in law school, choose a school, and then prepare for the best start. A Law Graduate’s Guide: Navigating Law School’s Hidden Career & Professional-Development Curriculum then shows students how to shape their studies to connect with law careers.

Dear J.D.: What to Do with Your Law Degree helps students choose a practice field and law or law-related career. Preparing for the Bar Exam: A Comprehensive Guide to Plans, Programs, Content, Conditions, & Skills helps students and graduates pass the bar exam. How to Get a J-O-B: An Eight-Step Program for Lawyer Employment helps graduates with their job search.

Entrepreneurial Practice: Enterprise Skills for Lawyers Serving Emerging Client Populations shows graduates how to develop a law practice of their own, while Are You Legal? A Personal Legal Audit & Empowerment Tool shows graduates how to audit a client’s matters for opportunities to provide helpful law services.

How to Build a Practice with Pro Bono shows graduates how to help 10 disadvantaged populations, while Cross-Cultural Law Service: A Framework for a Lawyer’s Professional Skill shows graduates how to provide services to disadvantaged populations. Lawyer Finances: Principles & Practices for Personal & Professional Financial Success shows students and graduates how to manage finances as a lawyer and in a law firm.

Top 100 Questions Friends & Family Ask a Lawyer shows students and graduates how to answer the curious law questions of a family member or friend. And finally, The Faithful Lawyer: Flourishing from Law Study to Practice shows students and graduates how to integrate faith for a sound and balanced professional career.

Most of these books are free to students in online form. Professors also give away print copies, or anyone can order them online. While most of the books are priced at cost, professors donate any proceeds to the law school’s scholarship fund.

books

These resources, a decade in the making, show just how committed law professors can be to student success, not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom in academic advising and career support.

nelson millerBlog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also teaches law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

Leave a comment

Filed under Faculty Scholarship, Knowledge, Uncategorized

WMU-Cooley Law School Celebrates Constitution Day 2016

Each year, in September, WMU-Cooley Law School joins the nationwide focus on the U.S. Constitution, commemorating the formation and signing of the historic document by focusing on a number of timely political and electoral issues. The official annual Constitution Day celebration takes place on Sept. 17, with this year’s observation date falling on Friday, Sept. 16. At WMU-Cooley, the celebration often gets extended, and this year continues into the following week.

beery_brendan-beeryThe WMU-Cooley campus in Tampa will celebrate Monday, Sept. 19, noon-1 p.m. with a political discussion. With election day less than two months away, panelists will discuss Clinton vs Trump as part of the law school’s annual Constitution Day activities. Constitutional Law expert and professor Brendan Beery, recent winner of the Stanley E. Beattie Teaching Award, will lead discussions regarding how results of the election will affect the U.S. Supreme Court and the Constitution.  During the discussion, Beery will analyze how legal issues, such as abortion, affirmative action and LGBT rights, could change depending on who is elected president.

warrenIn Auburn Hills,  the events take place Friday, Sept. 16. In honor of Constitution Day, the Hon. Michael Warren of Oakland County’s Sixth Circuit Court will present “The Presidency: Electors, Elections & Campaigns 1789-Today” at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Following the presentation Warren will lead a discussion about how the Constitution’s founders would react to Clinton vs Trump.

ford-statueIn Grand Rapids, events are focused primarily on the WMU-Cooley student audience. In observance of Constitution Day, WMU-Cooley Law School is holding a Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, Sept. 17  at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.  Participants will pick up a list of questions from Professor Devin Schindler or Professor Victoria Vuletich.  Participants will visit the new exhibits at the museum the morning of the 17th, using the exhibits to answer the list of questions.  Professors Schindler and Vuletich will then meet the participants for lunch to discuss Watergate and the pardon at a local restaurant.  Small prizes will be awarded  to the first, second and third place winners.

In Lansing, the celebration will take place later in the month with campus organizers currently working on finalizing activities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Knowledge, Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

Labor Day Reminder of the Absolute Equality of Rights Between Employer and Laborer

As we approach the unofficial end of summer with the Labor Day holiday weekend, it’s good to take time and look back at a significant and growing holiday that occurred earlier this season — Juneteenth, which celebrates the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the primary focus of the proclamation was, of course, to end slavery, when Gen. Gordon Granger presented the proclamation to the citizens of Texas, the rights of laborers were expanded to all workers. “This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

juneteenth day background

This summer, WMU-Cooley students involved in the law school’s Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic hosted their own Juneteenth Celebration with a day to honor our elderly and their contribution to labor and society.

Luis Vasquez, a third-year law student who was born in Guatemala and raised in Texas, said, “I found this event very interesting. Not only did I learn about some of the history surrounding Juneteenth, but I got to be a part of the festivities. It was my first time attending a Juneteenth celebration. The people, food, and atmosphere made the event meaningful and fun.”

Sixty Plus ambassadors worked with Professor Emerita L. Patricia Mock and the Stone Community Outreach project to provide free legal information to local elderly residents.

“The Juneteenth Celebration was definitely a cultural experience. It was packed with art, music, entertainment and amazing food. I enjoyed talking with individuals of all ages and of diverse walks of life. I was able to share one of my many passions – educating people about what we do at the Sixty Plus Clinic. The Juneteenth Celebration was a wonderful experience and I am happy that I was able to participate this year,” shared WMU-Cooley law student Khadija Swims.

“It was a mighty privilege to participate in the Juneteenth celebration. Being a Texan transplant from Alabama, and having only experienced the Texas-styled Juneteenth, the Lansing shindig was fun,” exclaimed weekend WMU-Cooley law student Stephanie Samuels. “I especially enjoyed the music, and it was a pleasure to work the booth with fellow students and Professor Mock, and to meet and share fellowship with the Lansing celebrants this year. I’m sort of a history geek and loved to share with anyone who would listen, the interesting, “did-you-know” and “better-late-than-never” stories about how Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. I usually got a “I didn’t know that” reaction to my explanation,” stated Samuels.

“Juneteenth is a celebration of a turning point in liberation where freedom begins to have more meaning and gives us a deep appreciation for those who have struggled in the past to bring us out of bondage,” said Rev. Dr. Melvin T. Jones, pastor of the Union Missionary Baptist Church in Lansing. “It’s really a celebration of life, especially African American life in this country.” Dr. Jones added that for children, “Juneteenth is an opportunity to peel back to the days before Martin Luther King, Jr. and look at those people from history whose shoulders we stood on, and on whose shoulders we stand, as it relates to what our freedom is all about,” he added.

It is fitting that, as we honor all workers with Labor Day, that we also honor the landmark events in history that make this possible for everyone. As Juneteenth attendee Jean Davis stated, “we need to remember the struggles our forefathers went through so we could have the privileges we have today.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Knowledge, Latest News and Updates, Skills, Student Experiences, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

Incubators are for chickens, aren’t they?

It has become very popular for law schools to establish “incubators” or “accelerators” for their grads. Accelerators tend to be less resource intensive with external support services. Incubators tend to offer greater on-site physical and logistical support. They tend to be more resource intensive for the providers. Their goals are admirable but, in my opinion, misdirected.

Incubators are for chickens, aren’t they?

Incubators are for chickens, aren’t they?

Benefits of Many Incubators

  • They often provide low cost or no cost services to the community
  • They help grads become familiar with systems approach to practice management
  • They delay entry into practice for those who are not equipped to succeed until they are better prepared
  • They foster good public relations for the institution

Problems of Many Incubators

  • They delay the graduates entry into independent business practice models
  • Incubators are limited in the number of students that they can support
  • Participants often obtain reduced compensation for their legal services
  • Most incubators control where those graduates practice initially
  • Many confine graduate’s subject matter practice options
  • They encourage continued dependency on the law school when the business environment requires independent judgment and ability to assume risk

Those lists are not exhaustive and, of necessity, they are generalizations. Incubators take many forms and are numerous and very diverse. But a common thread is the attempt to help their participants get a better sense of how to implement the doctrinal component of their legal studies in a practical and business oriented office setting with many support services and a safety net.

They are offered to foster greater success for those who wish to go solo who may not have secured employment as yet. Some provide ancillary support, while others have full-blown office environments where those graduates may practice law until they are ready to go it “alone.” Very often, they are promoted as serving the community, since many of them offer “pro bono” or “low bono” services to members of the community where these exist. Many have terms of service from 6 to 18 months.

There is a better way, in my opinion, which has greater utility for a greater number of graduates. It allows them to hit the ground running without delay even before they pass the bar. It is just one component of a complete strategy designed to better prepare students for the realities of practice upon graduation. What follows is just one component of a series of techniques that I have used for a number of years. I call this program “Solo By Design™.” But, there are other support services which I have used to help students in law school, and after law school, to succeed on their own. Graduates establish themselves with realistic and achievable goals in the community, where they intend to establish themselves upon graduation.

The Foundational Elements of the Program “Solo By Design ™” follow:

While in law school, I send them into the field – at a minimum, they must;

  • Identify the geographic location where they intend to practice and there,
  • If possible, interview solos who are of the same ethnic background and gender,
  • Interview some attorneys who are solos with greater than 10 years in practice,
  • Interview some attorneys who are solos with less than 3 years in practice, and
  • Interview local judges and court clerks.
  • They are armed with reference materials for background about the latest technology and practice management techniques.
  • They are provided a list of questions for them to use in those interviews.
  • They meet with other enrolled students in groups to share what they found as each one develops their own unique business plan, given the information gained through those interviews.
  • Finally, they prepare a business plan, based upon the recommendations of those they interviewed.

This is just one component of a complete system that I have not explored entirely in this post . . . there is much more to it. But this is one essential component to success for graduates after graduation.

I believe that the best way to prepare law students for the preparation of practice after graduation should occur while those students are still in law school through in-house, live-client clinics paired with external placements in externships where they plan to establish their practice. They also need classes to train them in accounting for lawyers, entrepreneurship and thorough and independent research in their own business start-up as identified above through “Solo By Design™.”

That way they can learn the practice principles that help them learn to collaborate and gain the confidence necessary to practice law immediately upon graduation. They have a business plan that they can employ taking advantage of the local relationships that they have already developed while still in law school with earnings that help them pay off their student loans. Their greatest fear of going into business for themselves will not be realized with the “training wheels” of incubators.

Since 1999 we have worked diligently to support students who wish to go solo or into small firm environments. This has been a work-in-progress. We have taken steps to help our graduates establish themselves in the business of law long before the idea of “incubators” became popular. Solo By Design™ has evolved to adapt to the many changes that have occured in the practice of law since our focus began 17 years ago. It has evolved to address the tremendous changes in technology and the economic downturn which has affected many graduates in their attempt to find employment

This is just part of what I do to help them help themselves and have a support system while in law school which continues after they graduate. It helps them develop realistic strategies for success in practice in the geographic area where they intend to practice. They also identify areas of practice which have potential as profit centers in their community with good earning potential. They also establish “relationships” (code for mentors) in the community where they intend to practice. Those are the true sources of information and support who will be valuable resources providing the type of support to help them succeed without delay upon passing the bar.

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

The author, Professor Gary Bauer has been a member of the full-time faculty at WMU-Cooley Law School since 1998. He now teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. His blog,sololawyerbydesign.com, provides law students, recent solo practioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. This blog post was first published on October 21, 2015.

Leave a comment

Filed under Knowledge, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Latest News and Updates, Skills, Uncategorized

Prof. Joe Kimble Is Right: In Legal Drafting Use the Word “Shall” at Your Peril

Robb PhotoJames D. Robb is Associate Dean of External Affairs and General Counsel at WMU-Cooley Law School.  

 

How often do you find the word “shall” in a contract or legislation you are reviewing? Have you wondered what precisely that word means? Or what the parties or legislature actually intended? Is “shall” a promise? Is it a command? Is it a declaration of determination? Is it a permissive term? Is its use clear to you?

Does it mean “must” as in a contractual promise?

 Seller shall maintain the property in good condition until closing.

Does it mean “will” as in a statement of future intent?

  I shall stop at the store on the way home from work.

Is it a statement of determination?

  I shall return!

Does it mean “may”?

  No pedestrian shall enter the intersection against the red traffic light.

Is it an invitation?

  Shall we go?

Obviously, the word “shall” has many meanings depending on the context. And often that context is clear. But consider what happens if the word shows up in a contract and is construed by a reviewing court to be ambiguous.

In fact, sloppy use of the word “shall” in a contract can be disastrous because a court that finds it ambiguous will construe it against the drafter. Our own Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joe Kimble, a leader of the plain language movement and one of the deans of America’s legal writing instructors, has pointed out how drafters use “shall” mindlessly. He has warned us that courts “read it any which way.” A recent important case bears him out, and even quotes him on the point.

In Orthopedic Specialists v. Allstate Insurance Company,  No. 4D14-287  (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.) (August 19, 2015), the Florida Court of Appeals held the word “shall” to be inherently unclear and ambiguous, particularly when used in the phrase “shall be subject to.” The court then construed the word against the insurer that wrote a policy for personal injury protection. Professor Kimble’s warning is quoted with approval in footnote 3 of the concurring opinion.

My abridged version of the Oxford Universal English Dictionary, published in 1937, devotes 23 column inches─more than two thirds of an entire page of blindingly tiny print─to the definition of “shall.”  That alone might suggest the word can be troublesome for those who need to draft with precision.

On a larger scale, Professor Kimble’s great book, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please, demonstrates the undue cost and expense associated with forbidding, verbose, and unclear writing. I recommend it to you. In performing your own legal work, take his advice:  be precise. Write clearly and to the point. And when tempted to use “shall,” think again. Perhaps the words “must,” “will,” or “may” will more clearly, and more safely, express your intent.

Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please by Joseph KimbleProfessor Joseph Kimble

We welcome your comments by replying below.

2 Comments

Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Faculty Scholarship, Knowledge, Latest News and Updates, Skills, The Value of a Legal Education

WMU-Cooley Constitution Day Speakers Impress Upon Law Students That the Constitution is the Law

We learn about the U.S. Constitution back in grade school, with teachers covering such historical subjects as the founders, the Bill of Rights, and fun facts about the times. As we go through life though, we often lose sight of the cornerstone document of our country in the pressures of daily life. 

us_constitution_01

Each September comes a reminder of our heritage in the form of a celebration called Constitution Day where schools across the country, from elementary classrooms on up through high schools and universities, take some time to reflect on the Constitution, citizenship, and other related topics. Law schools, with their obvious connection to the topic, are happy to get in on the celebration.

At Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, speakers brought history alive at all four campuses and touched on a variety of aspects of the Constitution.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people who came to hear Jonathan Sacks, the first executive director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. Sacks said the commission has been working to propose minimum standards for attorneys representing indigent defendants in Michigan.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Tampa, students, faculty and staff learned about the role of courts in society in the context of landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. A panel consisting of campus Associate Dean Jeff Martlew, and professors Jeffrey Swartz, Paul Carrier, and Brendan Beery, brought the concepts of constitutionalism clearly into focus for over 60 attendees.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

“What too many people don’t understand,” Beery said, “is that the Constitution is law.  So it won’t do to say that a person has done something unconstitutional, but not illegal.  If it’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal. When the Supreme Court issues a judgment on a federal question, there is not a state employee in the United States who is not bound by that judgment.”

In Grand Rapids, the relevance of the U.S. Constitution in today’s political and social climate was brought to life by Warner Norcross & Judd LLP attorney Matt Nelson. Nelson made the argument that the majority of political decisions should be made by the people acting through their representatives, and not by a non-elected court. He suggested that the Court’s role should be limited to striking down laws that are contrary to the plain dictates of the Constitution.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an un-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an non-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Auburn Hills, the 800th anniversary of England’s Magna Carta prompted a discussion of that document, and how it compares to the U.S. Bill of Rights, by speaker Ronald J. Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He also gave an overview of the Bill of Rights and how it was was interpreted during the Civil Rights era.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychiak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychlak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

According to We the People, “Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.” Take time to read the The United States Constitution today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Knowledge, Latest News and Updates

U. S. Supreme Court Cites Justice Thomas McIntyre Cooley in Same Sex Marriage Decision

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Author Nelson Miller is Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy.

While the reference won’t make any headlines other than the one immediately above, alumni should be glad to note that the law school’s namesake Justice Thomas McIntyre Cooley continues, well over a century after his death, to impress members of the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas M. Cooley

Justice Thomas M. Cooley

Justice Scalia’s dissent in the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage stand cites Justice Cooley at the head of the historical list of great legal luminaries, “minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly….”

That Justice Cooley continues to receive recognition as a leading member of the jurist’s pantheon should surprise no one.  Over the past century and more, the Supreme Court has cited Justice Cooley and his opinions and treatises so many times that he will forever retain his status as a profoundly effective, even though unusually humble, guardian of the law and Constitution.

Yet this most-recent Supreme Court reference to the great jurist bears special note, placing Justice Cooley at the head of the list before Holmes, Hand, Black, and Brandeis.  Chronology may have had something to do with that prominence, given that Justice Cooley is the oldest of the references.  Yet Justice Scalia could have started his list of great jurists anywhere but decided to start with Justice Cooley.

We here at the great old jurist’s school celebrate Justice Cooley’s continued reputation as the nation’s premier jurist.  Let us all hope that the Constitution that he so vigorously, effectively, and humbly defended will survive just as long as his enduring prominence.

2 Comments

Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Knowledge, Uncategorized